Garden of Thorns
By: Amber Mitchell
Publication Date: March 6th, 2017
After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.
Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.
Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll to take to her grave if she must.
Garden of Thorns is the third book I’ve read, in row, with an MC or love interest has a secret identity and who also happens to be living in a fantasy setting. The fact that I can keep all of these books straight is a testament to their quality, and the infinite variations on a trope that can be made while still being highly readable and never boring. Also, I obviously have a type.
In Garden, we are stuck inside Rose’s head: we understand her worries, her pressures, her loyalties, her loves. And she definitely has a boatload of each. We are dealing with a girl who hoists her own well being and that of her Wilted, or the girl who takes the punishment for any of her misdeeds so that Rose remains lovely and performance ready, on her shoulders as well as the weight of her own complicated past. Rose’s drive throughout the book is this bond, not only the responsibility Rose feels toward her Wilted, but also for the other girls in the Garden. This is her family, the only people who can understand the horrors of what she has been through, the complicated give and take of the Gardener’s personality and what his presence threatens. This bond of sisterhood drives the book and Rose’s actions and choices, making even her questionable choices believable, understandable, and forgivable.
And the romance? It is sweet and a slow burn. For Rayce, because he doesn’t think he deserves it, and Rose, for similar reasons and also for self preservation. These two carry a lot of baggage, but are able to shift through it enough not only to get to each other but also to work through their complicated pasts. I also appreciated that it wasn’t a romance that clouded any judgement, while on several occasions Rose finds herself in trouble, she doesn’t delude herself into thinking that Rayce would drop everything to come after her, to risk all he’s built to find her (even if he does). She doesn’t underestimate the trade value of her secrets, she won’t make that mistake again, and doesn’t discount that growing feelings may not be enough to negate that value. It was a refreshingly realistic train of thought, and I admired Rose for the maturity it took to come to these conclusions.
Garden of Thorns was a highly entertaining and enjoyable read. Rose and her goals drive the plot, but the supporting characters are just as complicated and well drawn, each having their own secrets and motivations and unique connections to Rose. It begs for a sequel, one I would read right away, and has a cast of characters I would love to learn more about and spend more time with. My only complaint for the novel was the use of the Zarenite, a mineral used in the rebel weapons, and how it worked. It kept me confused and while it was a unique addition to the story, it sometimes felt like it didn’t fully belong. This was easily overlooked, though, in light of the strength of the rest of the story and worldbuilding and didn’t detract from my desire to return to these characters, to continue to learn more about them, and see some more of Rayce and Rose together.
When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.
Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author info, image, and more were provided by YA Reads Book Tours.